Amanda Visellâ€™s work conjures up images of childhood folklore and fantasy, but with a naughty â€œnot quite fit for the tuck-you-in-with-a-nice-bed-time-story crowd.â€ Many of her characters like Drunky McSkunky or The Pink Elephant are given a decidedly PG-13 rating. Along with her unique illustrations, Amanda has ventured into the toy world as well with her own plush company, My Switcheroo, which has released a plush Frank Kozik monger that stands over 2 feet tall! To see more, check out My Switcheroo.
â€œI’m a little obsessed with how futuristic the past is. The old Tomorrowland in Disneyland is an example. Itâ€™s still more forward-thinking than what we can come up with now. I try to work on things that feel timeless; I donâ€™t really want you to be able to put your finger on when it was made.â€
Format: You chose not to go down the art school path, but did you always want to be an artist?
Amanda Visell: Well I would say I never thought about being anything, it was always just my identity. It took me a while to realize that I could support myself as an artist.
Format: How did you first get into painting?
Amanda Visell: Actually painting clogs. I hand-painted wood and leather clogs–sometimes little scenes, sometimes flowers. We used cell vinyl animation paint which I still use, not because Iâ€™m stubborn, I just think itâ€™s superior. When I was trying to break into animation I started painting scenes I thought were funny and playing with techniques and developing characters.
Format: A lot of your artwork has an old-timey, kitschy, retro vibe. What do you think inspires your creations?
Amanda Visell: Old-timeyness. I’m a little obsessed with how futuristic the past is. The old Tomorrowland in Disneyland is an example. Itâ€™s still more forward-thinking than what we can come up with now. I try to work on things that feel timeless; I donâ€™t really want you to be able to put your finger on when it was made.
Format: Do you ever choose a favorite character, like Drunky McSkunky or the Pink Elephant?
Amanda Visell: Sure, but it changes. Right now I’m into griffins, gnomes, and bats: battle scenes!
Format: Why did you decide to move into the designer toy stream?
Amanda Visell: Well itâ€™s a dream come true. Who doesnâ€™t want to make toys? I can just think something up and POOF, it exists! Itâ€™s magical! I think itâ€™s really more of a question of how did I end up here. I was desperately trying to get a job in animation and totally failing. In the process I was really developing my style and building my world. I’m really glad to be where I am now.
Format: I read somewhere that you were afraid your toys were not going to look like or reflect your art. Do you still feel this way?
Amanda Visell: Always. The best products retain the charm and style of the original art, but I think itâ€™s a hard thing to pull off.
Format: Last month, the mega- auctioning house Christies included your “Gnome Eating Bat,” Munny, into its Pop Culture Auction. How did it feel to have your work included, and do you think this marks a more open acceptance of toys as art objects in the larger art community?
Amanda Visell: Did you see how many Sopranos outfits were in that auction? Then what do you do with a velour jumpsuit? If you put it on a mannequin, it just looks like a scary outfit. Itâ€™s not like Superman’s costume or a Planet of the Apes costume, guests will know what that is right away.
Format: What is it like working with a giant like Disney?
Amanda Visell: Giants are people too, they just eat more.
Format: With painting, toys, apparel, books, and stationary already underway, do you think you will one day return to animation?
Amanda Visell: Well, I just worked in stop motion which was a lot of hard work. I wouldnâ€™t do that again. I do occasionally do some development work though.
Format: Can you tell us what you’ve got cooking these days, and what we can expect to see in the future?
Amanda Visell: Vinyl, wood, metal, plush, plastic, paper, canvas. A stew of things you donâ€™t want to eat.